In a crowd of ambassadors, business leaders and socialites, Erza Setyadharma stands out, wandering through the lobby of the The Dharmawangsa’s Grand Ballroom in South Jakarta in his lavishly embroidered tuxedo and bow tie.
He warmly greets each guest, there to see the CIMB Niaga Opera Gala 2013, an annual event, now entering its third year, that regularly invites world-class opera singers to perform in Jakarta.
The gala was held last week, featuring French pianist Frederic D’Oria-Nicolas, Mexican-born international tenor Jose Luis Duval, Palestinian soprano Mariam Tamari, Indonesian soprano Sylvia Wiryadi and acclaimed Indonesian composer and conductor Ananda Sukarlan.
Erza, who founded the Indonesian Opera Society in 2006, said it was a struggle at first to introduce opera to the Indonesian audience.
But through hard work and persistence he was able to produce dozens of performances.
Erza, who often works with his close friend Ananda, even produced an original opera piece written in Bahasa Indonesia and featured all Indonesian singers and musicians just to prove that opera can delight audiences here.
Seven years after founding the society, he is able to attract sponsors, collaborating with internationally-renowned singers and musicians through the help of embassies and their cultural arms, putting together productions for huge audiences.
“Since 2010, our company has been quite established in producing multi-dimension classical music and opera performances,” Erza said. Later known as one of Indonesian opera’s biggest names, Erza has since produced operas for Johnnie Walker, Valentino, Plaza Indonesia and the annual opera gala for CIMB Niaga.
“I can personally say that our positioning in Indonesia now is much stronger then before,” he said.
More than 200 people attended the CIMB Niaga Opera Gala 2013, most of whom were invited as part of the bank’s reward program for its wealthier clientele.
A diverse range of pieces were chosen to represent different periods of classical music and operas from those by Italian composer Guiseppe Verdi to 20th century musical legend George Gershwin.
The soprano, Sylvia gave a stellar performance when she opened the opera by singing the melancholic “Addio del Passato” from Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
Duval’s rendition of “Vesti La Giubba” from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” wowed the crowd as did Tamari’s “Je Veux Vivre” from Charles Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette.”
“We need more opportunities in the future to make people embrace classical music and opera as part as their music playlist. How come dangdut that is originally from India, can be the music of our country, and classical music cannot? I think we just need more opportunities and awareness,” Erza said.
Galas in previous years have featured works from Puccini and Rossini.
The opera producer said private donors and corporations have contributed a lot toward the society’s aim to introduce opera to Indonesian audiences.
“We can’t really rely on government support as they are unaware of our existence,” he said. “I have been in the industry for over 14 years now and our government is too busy with other top ‘priorities.’ Classical music and opera is definitely not part of their repertoire.”
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